Tag: ground zero mosque

The Establishment Comes Up Short

Today Politico Arena asks:

How does the Koran burning controversy relate to the Ground Zero mosque controversy?

My response:

As with the controversy over the Ground Zero mosque, Rev. Terry Jones and his tiny band of followers have a perfect right to burn Korans, but it would be well beyond insensitive to do so. Yet where are the establishment voices drawing the parallels? Where is President Obama, leaping to his defense?

Instead, we find the likes of the editorialists at the New York Times giving moral instruction to benighted New Yorkers, two-thirds of whom oppose siting a mosque at Ground Zero even as they defend Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s right to build it there. Meanwhile, last evening on the PBS NewsHour, the very essence of establishment TV, the sole guest on the Koran-burning segment, George Washington University’s Marc Lynch, lamented that across the Arab media, “on the jihadist forums, the newspapers, everywhere, there is a lot of focus on the fact that America right now is in the grip of this – of this trend towards anti-Islamic rhetoric and – and actions.” The fact? What Islamophobic “grip” are Americans in? As the most recent records show, hate crimes against Jews in America are 10 times more frequent than against Muslims.

So what is the principle by which the establishment distinguishes the two controversies, heaping scorn on Rev. Jones while defending Imam Rauf? Surely it’s not that Muslims worldwide will react violently to a tiny Koran burning incident while non-Muslim Americans will passively accept siting a mosque at Ground Zero. The heckler’s veto enjoys no currency in respectable parlors. And condescension is reserved for domestics unworthy of admission to such parlors, not for foreigners untutored in our nice distinctions. Nor of course can the explanation rest on so crass a premise as selective indignation based on religious sect, however often the unwashed might leap to such a conclusion.
 
But selectivity of a higher order does seem to be at play among the establishment voices. And we get a glimpse of it in Imam Rauf’s piece in this morning’s Times. Citing the support of “the downtown community, government at all levels and leaders from across the religious spectrum, who will be our partners,” he vows to proceed with building the mosque – the people be damned, one almost hears. But he does so only after noting how “inflamed and emotional” the mosque issue has become, adding that “the level of attention reflects the degree to which people care about the very American values under debate: recognition of the rights of others, tolerance and freedom of worship.” Singularly missing among those “American values” is respect for the feelings of others, quite apart from the rights of one’s self. Tolerance, in short, does not mean acceptance. New Yorkers, and Americans generally, will tolerate a mosque at Ground Zero, because they must, as a matter of principle, but in their hearts they will not accept it, because it is an insensitive affront to their deepest values.
 
It is that distinction, between rights and values, that the editorialists at the Times fail to grasp when they defend their position by writing: “Too bad other places are ahead of [New York]. Muslims hold daily prayer services in a chapel in the Pentagon, a place also hallowed by 9/11 dead.” The Pentagon, a public building, belongs to all of us, including Muslim-Americans. For that reason, all faiths have a right to use its chapel. And for the same reason, the government of New York City may not prohibit Imam Rauf from building his mosque on his own property. But it is no intolerance for the people of New York to make their values known. Those who condemn them for doing so, to put it biblically, know not whereof they speak.

On the Wisdom Not to Do Wrong

 Jim Harper may be “put off by the domestic political ramifications” of the continuing Ground Zero mosque debate — linking to my three POLITICO Arena posts over the weekend, when the story broke, and Chris Preble’s very different Cato@Liberty post on Monday — but that’s what this debate is all about. It’s not about the law or the Constitution, at bottom, because the law is clear: we respect the right to build that mosque there, even if it would not be prudent or wise to do so.

Thus, he misses the point when he cites “conservative icon Ted Olson” who, Jim says, “expresses well how standing by our constitutional values is good counterterrorism signaling.” That may or may not be good counterterrorism signaling, but those of us who oppose this mosque being situated there are standing by our constitutional values, contrary to the implication of Jim’s contention. We’re defending the right the Constitution protects, while engaging in the robust debate it equally protects — arguing that building the mosque there, as Charles Krauthammer put it in this morning’s Washington Post, “is not just insensitive but provocative,” given the facts of the matter.

But that’s not the only non-sequitur in Jim’s argument. He goes on to say:

Islam did not attack the United States on 9/11. It is simple collectivism—the denial of individual agency that libertarians reject—to believe that the tiny band of thugs who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks speak for an entire religion, culture, or creed. Our sympathy to families of 9/11 victims and our vestigial fears should not allow us to indulge gross and wrong generalizations about individuals of any faith.

Who’s saying that? Does Jim believe that those of us on the other side cannot distinguish the 19 long-dead “tiny band of thugs” — and all who supported them and continue to support what they did, as manifest around the world almost daily — from the great majority of Muslims who do not support Islamic terrorism?

There is a problem in the other direction, however, with those who minimize or dismiss “our vestigial fears.” The war against terrorism, which we are likely to be in for some time, requires a sober assessment of the circumstances we’re facing, neither understating nor overstating them. And one aspect of that is public opinion, including opinion, in particular, in the Muslim-American community. This morning’s New York Times has a page-one story about the divide in that community over the mosque issue. It’s those in that community who understand this issue that we need to encourage to come forward and stand for true American principles — including the principle that not everything a person has a right to do is right to do. It’s no more complicated than that.

On the “Wisdom” of Obama

This morning POLITICO Arena asks:
 
Should POTUS show his cards on mosque?
 
My response:
 
Obama’s inept handling of the Ground Zero mosque controversy is perfectly consistent with so much else he’s touched during his so-far short presidency. On Friday night he waded into this local matter by miscasting it as one of high constitutional principle. Then as his defenders were shouting “Bravo!” on Saturday he pulled the rug out from under them by saying, correctly, that it was really a matter of “wisdom” – about which he wasn’t going to comment.
 
Maybe he’s right about that. After all, the president isn’t, or shouldn’t be, the moral compass of the nation – certainly not this president. But it’s rather late in the day to be ducking out on this one, now that it’s been elevated to the presidential level. And it isn’t as if we didn’t know how inexperienced this man was when we elected him president. What was it Churchill said about democracy?
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Obama Backpedals on Ground Zero Mosque

Politico Arena asks today for continued comment on Obama’s Ground Zero mosque “correction.”

My response

Well, well: What a difference a day makes. Yesterday [Saturday] most POLITICO Arena contributors – including law professors, shockingly – were falling over themselves to defend President Obama’s Friday night Ground Zero mosque remarks – on constitutional principle, no less – while a very few of us were cutting through that nonsense.

Meanwhile, the president and the White House were struggling to get the word out that constitutional principle wasn’t really the point at issue here. It was, rather, the “wisdom” of building a mosque so close to Ground Zero. Now that we’re clear about that, perhaps Arena contributors can focus on that issue, not the straw man they erected to skewer the constitutionally benighted they imagined afoot.

But there’s another issue here, too. On Friday night we saw, once again, the real Barack Obama, the Obama who disparages Americans who “cling to guns or religion,” the Obama who rushes to condemn Cambridge policemen who act “stupidly.” No White House spinmeister can take any of that back

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Obama on the Ground Zero Mosque

Politico Arena asks for comments today on President Obama’s Ground Zero Mosque remarks:

My response:

Speaking expressly “as President” last evening [Friday], Mr. Obama has weighed in on the Ground Zero Islamic mosque controversy – and blatantly misstated it.

This controversy has nothing to do with Muslims having “the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country” or with their ”right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan,” as Obama put it. Nor does it have anything to do with the First Amendment. Rather, the issue is simply one of common decency and sensitivity to the feelings of others.

The president is right about one thing: Ground Zero is “hallowed ground.” It is the ground where some 3,000 people of all faiths lost their lives in a brutal attack by radical Muslims acting in the name of their religion, however distorted their beliefs may have been. Those who lost loved ones that day, to say nothing of the rest of us, cannot be indifferent to that fact – as those who support the mosque’s location near Ground Zero seem to be.

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Mayor Bloomberg Loves Property Rights

A front-page story in today’s New York Times begins:

Michael R. Bloomberg is a former Wall Street mogul with a passion for the rights of a private property owner.

The story is about the not-really-at-Ground-Zero mosque, of course.

Bloomberg has a passion for property rights — except when the property owner wants to allow smoking on his own property or just wants to keep the property he owns even if a richer person wants it.